Washington State officials told Congress Wednesday that they badly need federal financial help to fix the voting system flaws that marked the last election. They also stressed that states must retain control of how elections are conducted.
"Currently in Florida, and I suspect many other states, we have the will, but not the financial wherewithal," to enact election system changes, said Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a central figure in the disputed Florida vote that threw the 2000 presidential election into the courts.
Harris and other state officials testified before the House Administration Committee in the first House hearing on how best to improve the nation's election system.
They made it clear that states welcome and need federal help in upgrading voting machines, fostering voter education and training poll workers. But they rejected any federal mandate that would impose uniform national standards.
"It is entirely inappropriate for Congress to specify which type of voting technology must be used by the states or the specific methodology states must use to facilitate voter registration," said Utah House Speaker Martin Stephens and John Hurson, Maryland House of Delegates majority leader, in a statement on behalf of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the panel, said he realized that "it's going to cost some money if we are going to get some faith back in the system."
Dozens of bills have been introduced this year in the House and Senate that would offer matching grants to states to provide modern voting equipment, adopt uniform standards for voting machines and improve voter education. Others would establish a uniform national poll closing time, ensure that those properly registered aren't deprived of their voting rights and take steps to cut down on election fraud.